Nigeria’s state oil firm cannot account for missing $22.7Bn revenue

Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) cannot account for $22.7 billion earned from the sale of licenses and in dividends from its stake in Nigeria’s liquefied natural gas for over 15 years, says Neiti –the agency charged with the responsibility of auditing the country’s oil sector.

Speaking in an interview in Abuja, the country’s capital, Neiti’s executive secretary, Waziri Adio noted that despite energy producers financial accountability so far in the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the state oil firm hasn’t been helpful in providing details regarding billions of dollars missing dividends.

Top oil companies including Royal Dutch Shell Plc, ExxonMobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Total SA and Eni SpA operate joint ventures with the state oil company and are required to publish all their payments.

Adio recommended that more transparency would be good for the country’s oil sector as it is “no longer the black hole that it once was and things are opening up.” “There could be more in the area of contracts, ownership and expenditure transparency, but definitely there is some progress,” he added.

Africa’s top oil producer’s economy is reliant on its oil industry that provides 90 percent of the country’s export revenues and attracts investments in the economy and promotes development in related sectors of the economy and infrastructure.

Established by the Nigerian government in 2014 as an institutional and a comprehensive socio-economic reform programme, Neiti is the Nigerian national subset of the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. The agency is charged with the responsibility of promoting prudent management of Nigeria’s macroeconomic revenues and ensuring sustainable development. It also requires international energy companies and governments involved in mining to publish all their payments.

Though the agency has helped the country recover billions of dollars by auditing oil industry payments according to Adio, critics are of the opinion that the agency only barks and not bite as it does not have the required authority to enforce companies to  publish payments or reprimand defaulters.

“Neiti law does not give us the power to compel compliance or to enforce our recommendations. But we have done our reports, with findings and recommendations, and we have shared them with government,” Adio explained.

The reports produced by the agency so far covers a 16-year period from 1999 to 2015, while 2016 and 2017 reports are scheduled for public presentation in the middle of the year and towards the end of 2018.